Sunday, 28 March 2010

Ok (to) Go

Today's run was my dress rehearsal for Connemara. The plan was to walk for 1 minute every 5k (3.11 miles) while maintaining an overall Garmin (virtual) pace of 7:55 - that should translate to a real pace of 8 minute miles on the day. I even threw in a few hills to simulate the course and while the pace fluctuated between 8:50 (uphill mile 18) and 6:59 (downhill mile 20) the overall pace of 7:54 was bang on over the 21.6 mile route. I didn't take any gels and opted instead for a bottle of High 5 (4:1) drink, which unfortunately I had to take sparingly given it's effect on my bowel (Denis you'd think I'd have learned by now:).
Needless to say I did not run the Ballycotton 10 last Sunday as I decided that running 10 miles at a relatively easy pace did not warrant 6+ hours out of my life (that and Abina was working and Ani needed to go to soccer practice). Instead I covered 11.5 miles from home in about 1.5 hours earlier in the day getting back in time to make a pot of tea for Thomas and I before he headed to Ballycotton.
The track session on Tuesday was a steady 3 miles @ about 7 minute pace ("striding out" on the bends - don't know if we knew exactly what this meant) for the recovering Ballycotton 10 racers - everyone except me (and Paul Cotter) by all accounts. Once I got the hang of the striding out the pace quickened giving an overall pace closer to 6:40. The good news is that my calves felt reasonably good afterwards so they must be on the mend, particularly now that I got a decent long run in today.
The club track sessions from now on are moving towards shorter faster intervals in preparation for the shorter summer road races (5k, 4 & 5 miles) and the track season. I'm tempted to follow this route and see what kind of speed I got but still have one eye on the endurance event calendar - i'll see how I do in Connemara before making any rash decisions.
On Wednesday evening I had a sports massage from Joe Roche (club member who took pity on me after reading my tale of woe in Barcelona) and it certainly was thorough - he pulled, stretched and kneaded my calves, hams, quads, IT band & glutes. "Your hamstrings are dirty" he said. From the way the conversation was going I took this to be a colloquial expression for the poor state of alignment of the muscle fibres as opposed to a comment on my personal hygiene.
Some of the stretches were completely new and challenging. The upshot is that I have fairly good flexibility in my calves but not so good in my hamstrings & quads. I'll be back to Joe for one or two more sessions so that he can sort me out for Connemara. My weekly mileage since Barcelona has been moving in the right direction - 2.1 - 25.6 - 37.4. I'll keep it pretty much the same over the 2 weeks remaining before Connemara.
For the techies out there, generally those who favour the left side of their brain, here's a modern take on the domino effect. Another Engineer (who else?) told me about it.

You can see by the state of their jumpsuits that it took more than one iteration to get it right - but apparently it was all shot in one take.

I've seen a few video workouts posted on Rick's blog (now the best half marathon blogger in both hemispheres - East & West) but the following is one of the best treadmill workouts i've ever seen. I'll see if I can work it into my schedule.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Doing other stuff

While running has taken a back seat since Barcelona I'm lucky that my urge to expend energy can be satisfied by the lesser known but dare I say it "equally rewarding" acts of cycling and swimming, covering 62 miles of the former and 3.7 miles (6k) of the latter in the 8 days since the marathon. Certainly the swimming has been great with no impact on the legs (apart from the gentle push off required from the end of the pool the day after Barcelona).
My right knee continues to irritate slightly during the early part of my bike sessions (mild and hopefully temporary runner's knee?). But it was the 2 mile run following my Sunday bike ride that revealed the biggest threat to my running form over the next month or two. Apart from the mild bonk half a mile into the run (insufficient fueling on the bike) my left calf was stiff and sore afterwards despite the easy 8 minute pace and it took a few hours before I could walk without feeling discomfort. On the other hand my right calf, which I pulled in Barcelona, was fine - that's not to say it's all better it's just that it probably requires a bit more of a strenuous effort to uncover it's weakness.
My plan for the Ballycotton 10 next Sunday was for an easy effort just to get me back into the swing of things with 3 weeks remaining before the beast that is Connemara. However i'll give it a miss if I don' get a clear pain free run this week and continue to up the mileage on the bike. Connemara was always more about endurance and less about speed so i'm hopeful that it is faster paces as opposed to time on my legs that it causing my current niggles.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Paying the price

My legs are certainly paying the price for last Sunday's run. Surprisingly (or maybe not) it is my left quad and calf that give the most pain when walking. Perhaps they were compensating for the under performing right calf for the last 17 miles of the race. Certainly as the race went on my legs began to stiffen up considerably, with the last 5 miles being a real drag. I know this is quite common in marathons but when I initially slowed down I thought that the overall trauma to my legs would reduce (apart from the right calf strain).
My 5k splits (adjusted for the difference of 44 seconds between clock and chip time) are:-
5 km - 00:21:20 10 km - 00:21:04 15 km - 00:21:22 20 km - 00:22:38 25 km - 00:22:51 30 km - 00:23:20 35 km - 00:23:22 40 km - 00:23:42 42.195 -00:10:49
My target 6:45 pace for the first 20 miles equated to 20:58 5ks. The opening 5K in 21:20 was a deliberate slow start that went on for a bit longer than anticipated. By 10k I was almost on target pace and feeling good. The 21:22 for the 3rd 5k included pulling up before the 15k mat to apply bio freeze to my calf and after that it was pretty much downhill.
Overall the Garmin recorded 26.54 miles which is a 1.2% error. While this appears small it is equivalent to 5 seconds per mile which could lull you into a false sense of security if relying solely on the Garmin for pacing. For example the average pace to mile 8 on the Garmin was 6:43 as opposed to the real pace of 6:48.
Well done to Gary (recent commenter on my blog) who pulled off a great time of 2:55:15. What's even more impressive is that his last 5k was his fastest. To answer your question(s) Gary/(Frank) I started in the 3-3:30 pen, but had no problem getting up to pace once I crossed the timing mat. I caught up with and passed the 3:15 pacers somewhere during the 2nd mile. I do indeed intend to run the Connemara ultra in just over 4 weeks time but don't know what shape i'll be in by then. The target pace was always going to be well down on MP - so hopefully my endurance will be enough to carry me through. However I have the small matter of the Ballycotton 10 on Sunday week, which I hope to run at an easy pace if my legs are recovered.
An easy swim on Monday helped alleviate the stiffness. I followed this up last night with an easy 20 minutes spinning on the turbo trainer. My left calf and quad continue to throb along with a slight discomfort in the right knee, which reared it's ugly head while on the bike. However i'm confident that these are temporary niggles. As I haven't run, and won't until after the weekend, I don't know how impacted my right calf is from the pull on Sunday.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Amsterdam, Barcelona - Different Cities, Same Story

The weather was perfect for running in Barcelona cool and mostly overcast with a light breeze. The course was perfect too, inclines and descents were very manageable. Thew first 5 km felt a bit tough as I tried to get on pace - my mouth was dry which is a sign of under hydration I sorted this out by taking on plenty of water at the first water station. First 5km in 21:20 - only 20 seconds behind target pace. From 5 to 10 km I felt great 10km in 42:25 - still 25 seconds behind pace but I wasn´t worried. The average Garmin pace was in the mid 6:40s right where I wanted it to be. There was a long incline at about 14 km where my pace dropped slightly but so did the pace of those around me. Just before the top of the incline an acute pain shot up my right calf and I knew immediately that the game was up - no chance of a sub -3 hour run today. I limped on and just before the 15 km mark I stopped and applied my 1 sachet of bio-freeze to my calf (I was saving this for the inevitable cramps after mile 20). The bio-freeze helped a bit and as I was now on a gradual descent the pain eased. I had initially thought of throwing in the towel and walking to the nearest metro station (i had €3 in my belt- premonition?) but i´m no quitter and decided to run on and see if thing would improve. While the pain was manageable it was only so at my revised (naturally selected) pace of around 7:30. I ran the rest of the race more or less at this pace - shuffling up the inclines and resuming normal service on the descents and flats. As there are a few out and backs on the course I could see Pat ahead. He was flying. He was about 4 minutes ahead of me at the half way mark and 7 minutes at mile 18.5 so he was well on pace for the sub 3 hour. My revised plan, to keep me some way motivated, was to come in ahead of the 3:15 baloons and for a few miles I thought of my Amsterdam finish where I wanted to beat my worst time - I wonder could I beat my best time (3:08:58). I was there or thereabouts and to cut a short story even shorter I finished in 3:10:26 - a respectable time for a bad day in the office I suppose. Pat had a cracking race but preliminary results put him 10 seconds (Fu#ki"g hell) over the elusive 2:59:59 - 3:00:09 Chip & 3:00:19 Clock (some prelim results were posted in the baggage reclaim hall). Although he´s convinced he passed under the clock in 3:00:02 which would give him the sub 3. So there might have to be a recount and he may still get elected. Either way it´s a fantastic time. And there´s always the fact that he beat me, which should remove a very large monkey from his back. Adrian, being a part-time runner, had a sub 4 hour target, which he beat by another tight margin of about 10 seconds ) He´s hovering around the computer waiting for the website to dish out the results so that he can light up the hamlet cigar he bought for the occassion. Time to sign off and visit some of the sights before catching a flight this evening. Adios Amigos.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Pat´s in the bath...........

............., i´m on the internet and Adrian´s gone for a walk and a coffee. I guess we all need a bit of head space the night before a marathon, especially when we´re sharing a room.
Flew in yesterday evening and Adrian and I went into town for something to eat. Pat stayed near the hotel to conserve energy. Ate too much in an "all you can eat for €10.70" and arrived back at the hotel just after 12. Had a lazy morning climbing the hill to Montjuic after registering. Back into town with Adrian for a bit of shopping in Decathlon (got a nice pair of racing shoes for €29) We were joined later by Pat who took the sightseeing bus tour - back into the "all you can eat" establishment for a bit of carb loading. Pat offered me €100 to race in my new shoes tomorrow - he then lowered it to €29 when I said i´d take his €100. Perhaps I could be induced to "have a bad day" tomorrow if the price was right ;). be continued.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Good To Go?

A week without running felt a bit weird. I continued to use the foam roller on the calves and went for a sports massage on Monday evening - again the only tight spots appeared to be on my left calf. Still I decided to invest in pair of compression socks yesterday before my trial MP run. Unfortunately when I took them out of the box a magnetic security tag was attached to one of them. Undaunted I ran with the tag still on (couldn't prise it off - had to return to the shop today to get it off) anyone looking on would have thought they fell off the back of a lorry.
I ran for just over 5 miles with 2 at target marathon pace - the garmin was set to instantaneous pace as opposed to lap pace, which resulted in a marginally slower pace of 6:51/56 for the 2 miles, which i'm not bothered about. Nor was I concerned with the harder than normal effort involved (put it down to taper niggles). However of more concern was the tightness in my calves particularly my right during the run and which carried into today and while it was nowhere near uncomfortable that may not be the case over a longer distance. However my intention on Sunday is to give it a go and see what happens. A slower than marathon pace opening mile (7:00 to 7:15 range) will hopefully help me ease into the race and i'll take it from there and see what the road throws at me.
If Gary, who commented on my last post, wishes to meet up before the marathon, send me a mail at or ring me on 087-6394108 or i'll be wearing the black Eagle AC singlet at the start line, if I can find it (although I signed in for the 3 to 3:30 pen - may have to duck under the tape to the sub 3 pen.)
Wed 3rd March
5.30 miles in 38:33 (7:17 pace @ 136HR) with 2 MP miles @ 6:51/56.